Sheriff faces challenger in primary

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 27, 2006

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series introducing readers to candidates for office in Dallas County.

By Kati Burns & Tammy Leytham

The Selma Times-Journal

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Dallas County Sheriff Harris Huffman Jr. will face Lee Green on the ballot in the June 6 primary.

Another candidate for the office of Dallas County Sheriff, John Ellis, will appear on the general election ballot in November.

Lee Green

Green said tossing his hat in the ring for the sheriff slot is &8220;not something I just thought of overnight. I’ve spent more than eight years praying and planning,&8221; he said. &8220;I’ve been sitting back on the wayside and decided to get up off that stool and do something.&8221;

Green is a local business owner, running Karate World in Selma. He also has worked in the area of law enforcement for 13 years, as a jailer, then warden at the Dallas County Jail, and in a substance abuse program with the state of Alabama Office of Corrections. He also spent 24 years in the military, including stints in the Marine Corps, National Guard and Army Reserve. &8220;I’ve dealt with people all my days,&8221; he said. &8220;Blacks and white. There’s only one color and God sees that color.&8221;

Green called himself a &8220;people person&8221; who can get the community involved in the law enforcement effort.

He said some of the challenges facing the county and city include mutual respect. &8220;That seems like what’s missing in Dallas County,&8221; he said.

If elected to the post, Green said he would hold community/town hall meetings. &8220;Get to know people and let the people get to know me,&8221; he said.

He said the sheriff’s department needs more personnel, including female deputies. As of now, there are 18 deputies patrolling a county of about 50,000 people.

Having deputies patrol certain sectors, and making sure a deputy is always within that sector, will help with response time, he said. Green added that there need to be more vehicles patrolling those areas.

He said he’d like to add six more officers to the department. &8220;Right now, we have 28 vehicles, but only have 18 officers,&8221; he said.

Green added that he’d eliminate the &8220;good ole boy&8221; network of hanging around the courthouse and have the deputies patrolling the streets.

In addition, he said he believes in a &8220;zero tolerance&8221; for drugs, which he pointed to as a major problem in Dallas County. &8220;I know you can’t take it all off the street, but you can put a dent in it.&8221; Green said the department can &8220;start with the little man and work up to the big man&8221; in getting drugs off the street.

He said as sheriff, he’d be pro-active, not re-active. Continued education for deputies was one area he said he’d improve. In addition, he’d like to implement a program to check on senior citizens.

In saving money, Green said the department should look at having a processor serve some papers, as opposed to having deputies take time off patrol to do that. He added that he would look at

hiring an independent transportation company to transport prisoners to other counties, a job that currently ties up deputies for extended periods of time. &8220;We could subcontract

that out. Untie the deputy so he can do his job,&8221; Green said.

&8220;People are ready for a change,&8221; he said. &8220;They want something different. I’m asking for an opportunity to give them a change. If I don’t come up to standard, in the next four years, make another change.&8221;

Harris Huffman Jr.

Harris Huffman Jr. has served as sheriff of Dallas County for 12 years &045; elected for those three terms.

He sees the biggest change at the sheriff’s department during his tenure as &8220;more visibility with the sheriff’s office, and a few more deputies.&8221;

Huffman said his biggest concern as sheriff is public safety &045; &8220;be it criminal or weather-related.&8221;

The sheriff’s office has received $800,000 in grant money during the time Huffman has been in office, which has helped up-date the department.

Since Huffman’s term as sheriff, he has seen the addition of better equipment for the department, including vests, walkie talkies, video surveillance and police units. Several Crime Stopper programs have been introduced and almost everything in the department is now computerized.

This project is totally voluntary and will open the way for police and parents to easily be able to track children who are lost or kidnapped. Huffman said that as sheriff, he is always trying to find new programs to help out the county.

The Project Life Saver is being used by 27 counties in the state, which each can track a patient, no matter what county they are from. &8220;It helps caregivers feel more at ease,&8221; Huffman said of the program.

He said his is a &8220;young department of dedicated deputies and investigators. We’re spread out all over the place.&8221;

The officers continue to receive post-certified training after they join the sheriff’s department, including classes in abusive relationships, anti-terrorism, gangs, a fire school, and weapon training.

Huffman himself received an extensive education, making him highly qualified for his position.

A graduate of Selma High School, Huffman then attended the Southwest Alabama Police Academy in Bay Minette, where he received his Post Certification. He then attended the FBI National Police Academy in Virginia, and then graduated from the National Sheriff’s Institute in Colorado.

More recently, he received an associate’s degree in Criminal Justice from Wallace State Community College. He considers that one of his top personal achievements, since he attended classes at night while working full time in order to obtain the degree.

He also attended a week long seminar called the Southeastern Law Enforcement Development Seminar (SLEDS).

SLEDS is a management program put on by the FBI for police departments with less than 50 officers. The class is about different programs a department can

use and each sheriff that attends must be a graduate of the FBI to qualify.

The Dallas County Jail also comes under the jurisdiction of the sheriff, who is mandated to &8220;maintain a safe and secure facility.&8221;

There are about 180 inmates in the jail at any given time, guarded by three to four jailers.